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Reps. Sweeney's bipartisan bill to prohibit mandatory overtime for nurses passes Ohio House

House Bill 163 would protect patients and support nurses
June 10, 2021
Bride Rose Sweeney News

State Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) today announced the passage of House Bill (HB) 163, her bipartisan legislation with Rep. Al Cutrona (R-Canfield) that prohibits mandatory overtime work for nurses as a condition of continued employment. The bill passed by a strong vote of 82-12. 

“House Bill 163 would simply allow a nurse to say – without fear of retribution or losing their job – that they cannot safely work additional hours over and above the hours they just completed,” said Rep. Sweeney. “Not only does this reflect the dignity of their work, it also protects patients and creates reasonable exceptions for when mandatory overtime is absolutely necessary. While not all hospitals mandate overtime to meet their staffing needs, we should ensure that no facility relies on this dangerous practice.”

Specifically, HB 163 prohibits a hospital from requiring a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse to work in excess of agreed upon, predetermined, scheduled full-time or part-time work week as a condition of continued employment. Further, hospitals cannot terminate employment, propose termination, take disciplinary or retaliatory action, or propose disciplinary or retaliatory action if a nurse decides not to work unscheduled overtime. 

“The ONA fully supports House Bill 163 and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 129. Nurses are professionals who are ethically-bound to assess their ability to care for their patients. If a nurse is too fatigued to provide the safe care his/her patient deserves, the nurse should have the right to refuse overtime without fear of discipline,” said Deborah Arms, president of the Ohio Nurses Association. 

“Prioritizing safe nurse staffing benefits everyone: nurses, patients and healthcare facilities. Research points to dissatisfied patients, increased errors and higher patient readmissions when nurses are not safely staffed. Furthermore, nurse burnout increases with regular extended shifts, leading to costly nurse-turnover for healthcare facilities,” continued Arms.  “The needs and safety of the patient and nurse need to be put first instead of trying to cut initial costs by using mandatory overtime to plug nurse staffing holes.”

A report by the National Institutes of Health found that nurses who work more than 12 and a half hours are at triple the risk of making a medical error, both compromising patient care and contributing to rates of nurse burnout. Medical error is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States.

HB 163 awaits further consideration before the Ohio Senate.